The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 177)

2817
First of all, we need to address the extent to which Confucianism is a practical learning, as such a topic has been debated in current scholarship. Confucianism (yugyo; literally meaning “the learning of the literati”) was a common intellectual, ethical, and spiritual tradition in East Asia. Even as a form of “ethical humanism,” “socio-political ideology,” or “secular religion,” we may call it a practically oriented tradition. It maintained its beings through a universal path of learning and self-cultivation, as well as for amount spirit of classical Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism endeavoured to be “practical” as opposed to “theoretical.” But the Confucian tradition, like some other major philosophical or religious traditions of the world, involved a good deal of classical learning, intellectual inquiry, and moral cultivation. Whether the philosophical doctrines and ethical norms of the Cheng-Chu school were “pragmatic” enough from a strict Western standpoint of developing “functional” or “utilitarian” ideas, values, and results is a challenging question that is still open to debate. This question involves the extent to which they fostered economic growth or scientific revolution. It is, indeed, a sophisticated subject to talk about the Neo-Confucian notion of “practical learning.”

On the whole, the entire Confucian tradition offered a rationalistic learning in the context of emphasising the unity of knowledge and action. It was not purely a positive or utilitarian learning, however. In his comparative work on religion and social change, the German sociologist and comparative religionist Max Weber interpreted the negative roles of Confucianism as a fundamental factor in hindering economic development and socio-political modernisation in traditional China. In recent years, East Asian critics analysed Neo-Confucianism in similar ways, arguing that it did not produce any serious interest in economy, science, and technology. Chu Hsi’s Neo-Confucianism addresses the investigation of things and the extension of knowledge, with a strong demand for applying them to self-cultivation and social and political orders. In this regard, we mazy still argue that it was practical and did have its own empirical and scientific dimensions.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

London United Korean Fan Club

London United Japanese Fan Club